I’ve tried a *lot* of gadgets and devices recently which can be used to read Ebooks. The good news is that a decent basic ebook reader can be bought in Australia for as little as $150.
All of the devices in the photo below (Amazon Kindle DX, Kobo reader, Sony Reader Touch Edition, Samsung Galaxy S android smartphone with Borders ebook application and Kogan ebook Reader) as well as others like the Apple iPad have strengths accompanied with flaws. Which ebook reader device you buy depends on the flaws you can live with.
In my opinion of the 6 best ebook reading options available to Australians at the moment Amazon offers 3, Kobo offers 2 and Samsung has 1.
Amazon offers the 6″ inch Kindle and 9.7″ inch Kindle DX. The cheaper 6″ inch Kindle can only connect to the Kindle bookstore via WiFi, the slightly more expensive 6″ inch Kindle 3G and 9.7″ inch Kindle DX have a builtin mobile SIM card so they can access the Kindle bookstore anywhere around the world if they can pick up a compatible mobile signal.
Amazon has improved the Kindle a lot since it was first launched in 2007. They’ve managed to perfect the experience of requesting and reading a free sample chapter from the Kindle store and buying the whole book directly from the device on a whim.
At $US139+shipping for the paperback sized 6″ WiFi version it’s my favourite budget ebook reader and the $US379 9.7″ inch DX model which has a bigger screen more like an A4 page is the best high end eInk ebook reader available at the moment.
Your collection of books purchased from the Kindle store can also be automatically synchronised and read by you using the Kindle application on Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices.
Frustrating aspects include:
- the use of a proprietary ebook standard so books created in the common ePub open ebook standard can’t be read on a Kindle
- the lack of many Australian books in the Kindle store because deals haven’t been done with some publishers like Penguin Australia as yet
- Kindle versions of really old out of copyright books are priced at few dollars to buy in order to subsidise the cost Amazon incurs from international mobile network data transfers through the included 3G mobile simcard on the premium 6″ and 9.7″ DX models.
The first generation Kobo eReader is sold in Australia by Borders and Angus & Robertson shops and on their websites for $179.
The Kobo relies on side-loading books via a PC or laptop with a USB cable or a smartphone via Bluetooth, but has the edge over the Kindle by allowing you to load any of the freely available two-million-plus ePub format older books at no cost.
As an example “The Sea Wolf” by Jack London is an out of copyright book which costs $2 to buy via a Kindle’s 3G connection to the Amazon store, but comes free pre-loaded on the Kobo along with 99 other classic books.
- quote from my ebook reader comparison article for PC Authority
Your collection of books purchased from the Kobo store can also be automatically synchronised and read by you using the Kindle application on Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices.
Frustrating aspects include:
- The clicky noise made by the navigation button, some people find it annoying.
- Lack of Wifi or 3G connectivity mean you have to add books via a USB cable connected to your computer. The recently released Kobo eReader 2nd generation adds WiFi capability. I’m guessing it will be released in Australia by late 2010/early 2011. If you don’t want to wait you could buy it direct from the USA using the Price USA service
This may seem a strange choice considering the iPad and other smartphones can also be used to read eBooks.
The reason I think the Samsung Galaxy S is the best option out of all the smartphones and tablets is because of it’s 4″ inch Super AMOLED screen which is 0.5″ larger than the recently released iPhone 4 and is capable of displaying the best true black background of any portable device I have tested.
This means you can install an ebook reader application on the phone like the Borders Kobo app, open a book, invert the background so it shows white text on a black background and it’s far easier for your eyes to read so it doesn’t cause eyestrain.
There are some limitations though, in my opinion at 4″ inches the screen is OK to read for a short bus or train trip etc but not for a whole book. Also because the phone is a multi-function device it’s quite likely you could be interrupted several times by calls, sms or social media messages from Twitter/Facebook etc. The benefit of dedicated ebook reader devices like the Kindle and Kobo is they won’t interrupt you from concentrating on the book.
PS for those interested in the topic, I’ve previously written about the bigger topic of What Is A Book? How Will We Read Books In the Future?